Posts Tagged ‘Dol’

Korea Trip Part V: Fake Traditional Birthday Party

Posted by Greg on May 3rd, 2010 with tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Don’t worry, this is part five of five…last of the Korea trip posts, and only three weeks after our return!

In Korean culture, a baby’s first birthday is a major event.  Not only do people host parties with their friends to celebrate, but they also mark the occasion with a ceremony called a ‘Dol’, where the baby dresses in traditional Korean clothes and is placed in front of a table full of food, decorations, and series of items for the baby to choose from.  The item that the baby picks up first is supposed to indicate the profession or future of the baby later in life.  When Yenari was a baby she chose a pen and a book – foreshadowing the fact that she would spend a lot of time studying…a fortune that came true!

Even though our area of California has a very high population of Koreans, there aren’t really many places where you can buy Korean traditional clothes, and especially not many where you can buy traditional baby clothes.  So, one of our goals on our trip was to find clothes for Hazel for her upcoming birthday (just one month away!).  Yenari’s grandmother said that she wanted to buy the clothes for Hazel and knew just the place for it – an open market in the middle of Seoul – a wild place filled with thousands of tiny shops, food sellers, and lots of commotion.

We made our way through the market, slowly following Yenari’s grandmother who was weaving in through the tight corridors as only someone could who had walked the market thousands of times.  We eventually made it a set of shops dedicated to baby hanboks.  Here’s a small slice of the wall:

Shopping for Hazel's hanbok for her Dol

We spent a while there with Yenari, her mother, and her grandmother talking to the women behind the counter and seeing what they had to offer. After serious debate on exactly how hot the hot pink of the dress should be, and after holding up many different hanboks to see how they’d look on Hazel we made our choice and followed Yenari’s grandmother out of the maze.

Shopping for Hazel's hanbok for her Dol

On way back home, Yenari’s grandmother and mother were both feeling a bit sad that they wouldn’t actually get to see Hazel wear her fancy new clothes at her Dol, so we suggested that we have an early birthday party for Hazel (2 months early) so that all the family in Korea and Yenari’s friends could be a part of it. Everyone was excited about the idea and we planned the party for the weekend before we were to leave. Yenari’s grandmother started all of the cooking and decorating preparations just about as soon as she got home.

Fast forward a couple days to Saturday and the preparations. Yenari’s father was the boss of the preparations, making a trip to the Korean equivalent of Toys R Us to pick out some stuff for her to choose from at the table. The table itself was his other main job, decorating it with fresh fruit, handmade rice cake, handmade carved dried squid, and about twenty stuffed animals. Here’s a shot of Yenari’s father preparing the table, and following that the squid and rice cakes that Yenari’s grandmother worked so hard on:

being coached by grandfather before her Dol

Dol table

Handmade rice cakes made by Hazel's great grandmother for her Dol

Carved dried squid made by Hazel's great grandmother for her Dol

Up next, the arrival of the guests and the dressing of Hazel in her hanbok:

getting dressed up for her Dol in a Korean traditional hanbok

Once dressed, Hazel had fun with the family before the event got going:

gnawing on stuff with her grandfather

with her great grandmother

playing with grandma, partially dressed up at her Dol

and then it was time to start the festivities – Hazel was put down in front of the table, quickly grew tired of her hat, and then started checking out all the things in front of her:

all ready to go at her Dol

what to pick...

second pick - princess wand

her first pick was a stethoscope – a total setup by Yenari, placed well in front of all of the other items. The stethoscope was followed by a princess wand, which was followed by a gold ring. Yenari’s father tried to have to her pick up money, a sign of wealth, but she immediately threw it on the ground…uh oh. We all had a great time watching it and then took some group photos:

fam photo at her Dol

with Yenari's friends at her Dol

and a not so happy photo of Hazel with her grandparents!

not so happy with grandma and grandpa at her Dol

quickly turning back to happiness seconds later:

with grandma at the Dol

Playing in her fancy dress at the Dol

We were all so happy that we decided to have this fake birthday party and celebrate Hazel’s Dol. While this was the fake one it’ll definitely be much more authentic than the one we’ll do here in a few weeks. A huge thanks to Yenari’s grandmother for both buying the hanbok and for preparing all of the rice cakes and decorations, thanks to Yenari’s parents for for hosting the party and preparing the table, and thanks to everyone who make the trip out to celebrate with us and who got Hazel such nice presents.

We had another three days in Korea, but I’ll spare you all and not go into extreme detail on each and every minute. We visited Yenari’s grandfather’s grave in the countryside, we met Yenari’s father’s extended family (who Yenari hadn’t seen in about 10 years), had some last visits with Yenari’s buddies DoYoung and Eulji, and spent more time with Yenari’s family. It was a great trip and it was so nice to see Hazel get to know Yenari’s family and to have her spoiled with all of the attention. She changed a lot in this trip and started to look a lot more like a kid and a lot less like a baby (looks can be deceiving sometimes though!).

So it was back to reality…a long flight home with an almost immediate hop back on to a plane for all of us to go to Boston (for my work) and Connecticut (to see my family)…but I’ll leave that for another post…